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  • Writer's picturePatrick Ireland

We Are In Denial: It’s Time To Face Up To Political Reality

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

The world is burning.

We can’t stop it.

The homeless are dying on our streets.

We can’t change it.

Our economic system is failing most of us.

There is no alternative.

Denial, in the Freudian sense, is when a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite overwhelming evidence.

We are surrounded by deprivation most of us have never witnessed before in our lifetimes – data suggests that at least 8 million workers, 4 million children and 1.9 million pensioners now live in poverty in the U.K.

Many of our towns and communities have become virtual wastelands, stagnant and decomposing as a result of decades and decades of underinvestment and the lack of any serious state planning.

Many psychoanalysts characterise denial as a coping mechanism for unwanted change or trauma whereby ‘reality’ is suppressed in order to function.

One in five species on earth are now endangered; and it is expected that this will rise by 50% before the end of the century. Between 70-80% of British towns and cities are ‘unsafe’ due to the toxic air levels. About a third of our coastline is in danger of being wiped out as a result of rising sea levels. And with temperatures spiralling in the Global South, to likely uninhabitable levels in the coming decades, we are on the brink of quite possibly the world’s largest refugee crisis – tens of millions fleeing.

There are different types of denial. Denial of fact. Denial of responsibility. Denial of impact. Denial of awareness. Denial of denial.

It has been estimated that, since the 2008 financial crash, the average household in the U.K has lost £23,000 in real terms. Meanwhile, the very richest in society have seen their wealth surge in recent years. While banks were bailed out - £137 billion, with a further £1 trillion in financial guarantees (in the U.K alone) – austerity tore apart our schools, hospitals and vital public services.

Robert Peston recently called the Labour Party 2019 Manifesto “class war”, but the society we are living in right now – our entire world as a matter of fact – is precisely what class war looks like when it’s the wealthiest who are waging it.

Eight billionaire’s own half of the world’s wealth.

In some cases, denial is made out of choice to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth.

The collective crisis we are now facing – political, social, economic, environmental – stems from an ideologically-driven, cult-like surrender to the God of ‘the market’. A revolution that swept over much of the Western world in the late 70s. The first shots in an ongoing assault by the richest on everyone else.

Neoliberalism, which some cynically try to contest, is very real. Neoliberalism, the politics of deregulation, privatisation, exploitation and ruthless individualism, is perhaps best understood as a process of de-democratisation. A democracy-killing machine, used by the ruling class – billionaires and their millionaire servants – to erode the parameters of democracy; concentrating wealth, power and vital resources in the hands of a tiny few.

Neoliberalism’s hegemonic rule is maintained by daily doses of propaganda in the media; and up until Jeremy Corbyn took over the Labour Party, and Bernie Sanders emerged as a potential presidential candidate in the United States, the opposition parties were not only complicit in this process – but actively a part of it.

The neoliberal reality can probably be best grasped by your experience of it:

How many hours did you work this week?

How happy does your job make you?

How many times was your train delayed getting in and out of work?

How many homeless people did you pass along the way?

How much debt are you in and how are you going to pay it all off?

How much money do you have saved and how long would it take for you to run out if you were suddenly made redundant?

How much of your wage goes to a landlord? And energy company? And water company? And any other basic service provider?

Can you afford to buy your own home?

Do you actually own anything of any meaningful value?

How fulfilled do you feel in your life?

Are you on anti-depressants or any other kind of medication to nullify your mood?

How long can you go on living like this?

What are you going to do when you retire and how are you going to pay for it?

Will your children have a better life than you?

The death of democracy means the demise of agency. And meaningful agency in society, and thus democracy, comes through a collective ownership of its resources and services.

Some class denial as the first stage in a coping cycle whereby the subject finally comes to accept the unwanted change.

Revolution is a process of restructuring. Specifically, restructuring the underlying relations between groups of people in society. Boss, worker. Landlord, tenant. Banker, nurse. CEO, migrant. And so on.

The neoliberal revolution of Thatcher and Reagan, continued on through Blair and Clinton, Cameron and Obama, Johnson and Trump, has created the seeming dystopic reality many of us now gasp in shock over.

Our multi-faceted crisis is structural. A new political revolution is the only way we can recapture our lost agency and change the dark course we are currently set on.

Labour’s 2019 Manifesto is among the first serious attempts by a political party in the Western world to do this.

Right now, many of us are living in denial because we’re afraid.

But it’s time to face up to reality.

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